Where are you from? When did you first know you wanted to dance?
I was raised in the Housing Projects on 125th Street and Amsterdam. My mom enrolled us at Saint Joseph’s Catholic School nearby to keep us away from the streets.
I first saw dance on the Ed Sullivan show at the age of five. I believe it was the Bolshoi Ballet performance. I told my mom and dad I wanted to do dance. I just remember dancing around the house all the time. At parties, I danced on my dad’s feet to merengue, and I would dance by myself whenever I heard the music.
When did you first start dancing with Ballet Hispánico? What was it like at that time?
I first met Tina Ramirez and her dog Tatatita (I was scared of the dog) at her summer program called High Hopes in 1967. I was nine years old. I celebrated my 10th birthday dancing and singing there. My mom had a friend with two children who were taking acting classes and she told my mom about the summer program. She told my mom to register quickly before all the slots were taken. My mom registered my sister and brother as well.
We took all types of dance classes, like flamenco, ballet, African and jazz. We also learned to sing. We learned a French and South Pacific song, among others. At the end of the summer program, we all performed at the Band Shell in Central Park, New York City.
Afterwards, my mom enrolled us at the Tina Ramirez School of Dance to keep us safe and off the streets of New York City. Ms. Tina gave my mom a break—she only charged for my sister and me. My brother was able to attend for free. This was an offer Tina made to all the families and a great way to have boys join the school.
The studio was in the Ed Sullivan Theater on the second floor, located between 53rd & 54th Streets on Broadway. The next studio was on 33rd and 34th Streets, which was named the Tina Ramirez School of Dance Performers. We danced at Casa Galicia, hospitals, street performances, parades and more. We had our annual recital at a public school.
We then moved to West 89th Street. It was amazing to have our own building. It was a great dream coming to fruition for Ms. Tina and all of us. Wow!
What was your audition like for the Company?
At that time, we did not have an audition process. Our constant education, learnings, performances and dedication was our audition! Ms. Ramirez obtained permission from our parents for us to continue in the school throughout the years.
I get emotional thinking about all I have accomplished. I was a very shy child, but dance made me come alive! It was heavenly, my safe place where I could express myself freely. I loved all the performances, the lecture demonstrations, and helping Ms. Tina teach at different schools statewide.
When and where were your favorite performances with Ballet Hispánico?
Some of my favorite performances were; the Delacorte Theater in Central Park and Lincoln Center. My all-time favorite repertories were Echoes of Spain by Louis Johnson and Boda de Louis Alonzo by Paco Fernández.
What did you learn from Tina? Did she have any specific sayings you remember
What I learned from Ms. Ramirez and Ballet Hispánico:
- To perform with DISCIPLINE AND CREATIVITY.
- To DREAM and go for what I wanted and BELIEVED in my heart and soul.
- Do not be afraid to show your PASSION in whatever you do, wherever you go.
I feel honored and blessed to have been a part of something so big. To bring our heart and soul to generations and see the phenomenal evolution throughout the years. A place for people of all cultures to come together and be proud of our heritage.
A heartfelt thank you to all of the Ballet Hispánico staff throughout my years. You made it possible for my dream and the dreams of many others come true. I love you Tina! Thank you for your dedication.